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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
   by Dr. Drew Hause

What loads were my L.C. Smith shotguns designed to shoot?
circa 1900:
The "standard" U.S. 12 gauge field and inanimate target load was 1-1/4 oz. shot with 3-1/4 Dram Equivalent (1220 fps) of Bulk smokeless in a 2-5/8" or 2-3/4" case, with a modern transducer pressure of 8000 - 9500 psi.
Just before WW1:
The "standard" U.S. 12 guage field and inanimate target load was 1-1/8 oz. shot 3 DR. Eq. (1200 fps) of Dense Smokeless in a 2-3/4" case with a transducer pressure of 8,500 - 10,000 psi.

Standard loads found on L.C. Smith hang tags:

12 gauge     3 dram            1 1/4 oz. shot (1887 - about 1920)
                      3 dram            1 1/8 oz. shot (after 1920)

16 gauge     2 1/2 dram     1 oz. shot (introduced 1896)
20 gauge     2 1/4 dram     7/8 oz. shot (introduced 1907)

Load Pressures are converted to modern piezo transducer numbers using Burrard's formula if originally expressed as Tons/sq.inch by LUP (Lead [Crusher] Uniits Pressure), or by adding 10-14% if expressed as PSI by LUP.

12g     Black Powder

  • 1-1/8 oz. 3 Dram Curtis & Harvey's No. 4, T.S. (82 grains; somewhat similar but not equivalent to medium grain FFg) was about 6,500 psi.
  • 1-1/8 oz. 3 Drams (1200 fps) of DuPont FFFg (82 grains) is about 5000 psi.
  • 1 1/8 oz. 4 drams (1420 fps) of FFFg (108 grains) is about 7000 psi.
  • 1 1/4 oz. 3 3/4 dram FFFg (1240 fps) is about 6000 psi.
  • 12g    Smokeless Powder

  • 1 1/8 oz. 3 Dram Equivalent of BULK Smokeless was 6500 - 7500 psi.
  • 1 1/8 oz. 3 Dr. Eq. of DENSE Smokeless was 8,500 - 10,000 psi.
  • 1 1/8 oz. 3 1/4 Dr. Eq. BULK Smokeless was about 8500 psi.
  • 1 1/8 oz. 3 1/4 Dr. Eq. DENSE Smokeless was 9500 - 10,500 psi.

  • 1 1/4 oz. 3 1/2 Dr. Eq. BULK Smokeless was about 11,750 psi
  • 1 1/4 oz. 3 1/2 Dr. Eq. DENSE Smokeless was 12,600 psi
  • Pressure is beyond the modern SAAMI recommendation of 11,500 psi

    16g    Smokeless Powder

  • 1 oz. 2-3/4 Dr.Eq. BULK Smokeless was about 7,000 psi.
  • 20g    Smokeless Powder

  • 7/8 oz. 2 1/2 Dr. Eq. BULK Smokeless was 8000-9000 psi.
  • 7/8 oz. 2 1/2 Dr. Eq. DENSE Smokeless was about 11,000 psi.

  • Up until about WWI the standard 20g load in the U.S. was 7/8 oz. with 2 1/4 Dr. Eq. Bulk or Dense Smokeless powder. 7/8 oz. with 2 1/2 Dr. Eq. had been the standard British 20g load even before the 20g was offered by U.S. makers.


    Until the 1920s, the heaviest North American factory loaded 10 gauge shells offered were 1 1/4 ounces of shot pushed by 4 1/4 drams equiv. of smokeless powder in a 2 7/8 inch case. The Western Cartridge Co. Super-X load Super-Ten shell with 1 5/8 ounces of shot driven by 4 3/4 drams equiv. of progressive burning smokeless powder in a 2 7/8 inch case was introduced about 1926. The Western Super-X Magnum-Ten  with 5 drams equiv. of progressive burning smokeless powder pushing 2 ounces of shot from a 3 1/2 inch case was introduced in 1932.

    A 1903 UMC salesman’s catalogue shows paper 12 gauge shells available in 2 5/8, 2 3/4, 2 7/8, 3, and 3 1/4 inch lengths. In addition, 12 gauge brass shells were also offered in a 2 1/2 inch length. The longer shells were usually for more and better wadding, not a heavier shot load.

    Fred Gilbert (1865-1928) was one of the world’s best known shooters of his time, using a L.C. Smith to win the DuPont World’s Pigeon Shooting Championship in 1895 and the "E. C." Inanimate Target Championship Cup in 1896. Von Lengerke & Antoine Co. marketed a Winchester 12 gauge Live Bird load with a picture of Gilbert on the box marked SPECIAL WADDING GILBERT, 3 inch, 3 1/4 Drams DuPont, and 1 1/4 Ounces (1220 fps) No. 7 T.C. shot.

     The Super-X 3 inch 12 gauge shell with 1 3/8 oz of shot and the 2 3/4 inch 3 3/4 dram equivalent 1 1/4 oz load (1330 fps) were both introduced in 1922. The 20 gauge 2 3/4 inch 1 oz Super-X also came out that year, and the 2 9/16 inch 16 gauge Super-X with 1 1/8 oz of shot was introduced in 1923. Winchester/Western brought out the 12 gauge 3 inch magnum with 1 5/8 oz of shot in 1935, the same year as the introduction of the Model 12 Heavy Duck gun.

    By 1945, the Stoegers Shooters Bible listed Xpert and Xpert Super Skeet, Ranger Field, and Leader Staynless as being available in 2 5/8 inch 1 1/8 oz. loadings. By that time all Super-X, Super Speed, Leader Super Speed, and Ranger Brush loads were 2 3/4 inches with 1 1/4 oz of shot.

    Prior to WWI, the standard 2 9/16” 16 gauge load was 2 1/4 drams equivalent and 7/8 ounce of shot. The heaviest 16 gauge loads listed were 2 3/4 drams equivalent and 1 ounce of shot.

    The famous Widgeon Duck Club 3 inch 20 gauge shells of the pre-WWI era were loaded with 2 1/2 drams equiv. and 7/8 ounces of shot, while the heaviest load in the 2 1/2 inch 20-gauge case was only 2 1/4 drams equiv. with 7/8 ounce of shot.

    Bottom Line: The necessity of keeping the “Sweet Elsie” loads within the parameters of the intended loads cannot be stressed enough. These shotguns were not designed for heavy loads (such as 3 3/4 dram equivalent and 1 1/4 oz of shot), and the use of these loads is responsible for cracking many of the somewhat delicate headstocks.

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    L.C. Smith Collectors Association 2016

    Updated 09/13/2016